Domestic violence and Covid-19

 

Sir, – We in Safe Ireland are the 38 frontline domestic violence services working in communities around the country. We are extremely concerned for the safety of those in continued confinement – trapped now for over eight weeks with abusers.

The Government has named domestic abuse as a top priority during this national emergency across several departments and media campaigns. We welcome this strongly in every instance.

Notwithstanding the public attention domestic abuse is receiving, there remains a crucial weak point in government responses: housing support – a safe place to stay in the short-term. Women and children fleeing domestic violence are homeless. When they ring our helplines or contact our refuges, many are looking to be relocated to safe accommodation immediately. Our refuges have already had to turn people away.

On April 2nd, Safe Ireland, the national policy and service hub representing our collective views, sent a submission to Government proposing that women and children in need of immediate relocation because of domestic violence be facilitated to access emergency rent supplement for the duration of the Covid-19 crisis. On April 22nd, our request was declined by Government.

We understand that this crisis is placing huge demands on our society. We know there is no endless pot of money.We also understand that there is a national housing crisis. But it is our belief that the physical and mental survival of those experiencing domestic violence must be met with resources to meet its already acknowledged priority status. We have estimated that the cost to the State to provide this temporary measure to safety is less than €400,000.

We are frontline services and many of our members provide emergency refuge accommodation. However, because of Covid-19 social distancing and isolation requirements, we are operating at approximately 25 per cent less capacity. Already, we have difficulty accommodating all of the women who come forward.

We are working tirelessly to maintain all our services throughout the country. This would be so much easier to do if women fleeing domestic abuse had priority access to emergency rent supplement. It is a vital measure during this pandemic.

It is a matter of grave concern that the Government seems not to understand the importance of an emergency response capacity at this time. We are asking Government to review its decision as a matter of urgency. Housing is simply one element of a survivor’s journey to health and safety, but a vital one. We ask that women and children fleeing domestic abuse in need of immediate relocation during Covid-19 have access to emergency rent supplement. – Yours, etc,

MARY McDERMOTT,

SHARON O’HALLORAN,

Co-chief executives,

Safe Ireland,

Blyry Business Park,

Athlone,

Co Westmeath, and

Catherine Casey, General Manager, Adapt Kerry Women’s Refuge and Support Service Monica McElvaney, Director, ADAPT Domestic Abuse Services Limerick Lisa Morris, Manager, Amber Women’s Refuge Kilkenny Emma Reidy, CEO, Aoibhneas Domestic Abuse Support for Women and Children Kathleen Maher, Co-ordinator, Ascend Domestic Abuse Service for Women Anne-Marie McMorrow, Manager, Bray Women’s Refuge Honoria Gilchrist, Co-ordinator, Carlow Women’s Aid Siobhán O’Connor, Manager, Clare Haven Services Carol Baumann, Manager, Cope Galway Domestic Abuse Geraldine Mullane, Project Leader, Cuan Saor Women’s Refuge and Support Service Pauline Dunne, Manager, Cuan Lee Refuge, Cork Carmel McNamee, Manager, Domestic Violence Advocacy Service, Sligo Elizabeth Power, Coordinator, Domestic Violence Response, Galway Mary Maguire, Manager, Donegal Women’s Centre Marie Hainsworth, Manager, Donegal Women’s Domestic Violence Service Susan Keogh, Manager, Drogheda Women and Children’s Refuge Deirdre Berry/Linda Tiley, Team Leader, Esker House Women’s Refuge and Support Service, Athlone Kate McCarthy, Manager, Inchicore Outreach Centre, Dublin Marna Carroll, Manager, Laois Domestic Abuse Service Mary Doherty, Manager, Lifeline Inishowen, Donegal Louise Lovett, CEO, Longford Women’s Link Josephine McGourty, Manager, Mayo Women’s Support Services Sinéad Smith, Manager, Meath Women’s Refuge and Support Services Ann Mahony, Manager, Mna Feasa, Cork Claire Coughlan, Manager, Oasis House Women’s Refuge, Waterford Anne Clarke, Manager, Offaly Domestic Violence Support Service Deborah O’Flynn, Manager, OSS Cork Ellen O’Malley Dunlop, Acting CEO, Saoirse Women’s Refuge, Dublin Daniela Naab, Manager, SAVE, Dublin Fiona Ryan, CEO, Sonas Domestic Violence Charity, Dublin Anne Carey, Manager, Roscommon Safe Link Lorraine Rowan, Manager, Teach Tearmainn Women’s Refuge, Kildare Siobhán McKenna, Manager, Tearmann Domestic Violence Services, Cavan and Monaghan Linda Mulcahy, Support and Advocacy Manager, Good Shepherd Cork Marie Mulholland, Co-ordinator, West Cork Women Against Violence Project Pauline Ennis, Manager, Wexford Women’s Refuge Sarah Benson, CEO, Women’s Aid Ann Larkin, Manager, Women’s Aid Dundalk Ruth Lehane, Manager, YANA North Cork DV Project.